Dreams of the World: One Dream a Time. This post is the latest in the series Dreams of the World, which profiles interesting people Kike meets during his travels. Kike Calvo’s visual diary as a National Geographic Expert on the Buenos Aires, Rio and Brazil´s Wild Coast National Geographic Explorer.
Eyal Aronoff onboard the Lindblad National Geographic Explorer. Photo © KIKE CALVO
“I am a little a product of tragedy. I am also a product of hope,” said Eyal Aronoff , a successful entrepreneur and activist, co-founder of Quest Software, which was sold to Dell in 2012 for $2.4bn, and co-founder of the Fuel Freedom Foundation. “My life is about dichotomy. On the one had there has been tragedy, and on the other, an incredible wealth.”
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Aronoff lost his father when he was four amidst the conflict in the Middle East. Eventually his mother remarried but his younger stepbrother and sister-in-law died in the World Trade Center in 9/11. “I came to the US with $3,000 in 1990 and by 2000 I owned millions,” said Aronoff, 51, who has been trying to reconcile some of the different but related forces in his destiny: tragedy, conflict, wealth, fuel. “For the rest of my life the question I am trying to answer is what can I do to reduce hatred in the world.”
With a growing interest in the role of oil in global security, Aronoff went far beyond the tech-wealthy success story and became a passionate philanthropist. Through his Fuel Freedom Foundation and in partnership with Yossie Hollander, a fellow Israeli entrepreneur, Aronoff advocates for energy security, alternative fuels, better energy regulation and flex-fuel vehicles.
“I dream of a world where energy is democratic, it is in the hands of every person, and it is affordable in the developing world,” said Aronoff whose stay in China in 2008 during the Olympics was transformative. “A big turning point for me was to test drive an electric car for the first time. I couldn’t get enough of it. Then I looked out from my 22nd floor Beijing apartment, and as far as my eyes could see there were people who one day may own a private car. Where are we going with oil?”
Sustainable transportation is high in Aronoff´s agenda. He firmly believes that there are solutions to the problem and that creative technology fixes that are financially sound and equitable can provide viable alternatives. “I believe the human mind can create anything out of nothing. If there are big problems, we can solve them. If enough smart people get together and invest in their dreams, no problem is too big,” he added. Applying the same entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude from his time catapulting Quest Software, Aronoff reckons the energy sector can change for good. “We can’t get another planet. We need to rely on our creativity to change this world.”
In an effort to raise public awareness, Aronoff and Hollander backed the movie “Pump”, an ingenious look at global energy trends and fuel alternatives. Committed to fostering idea-generating dialogue in the energy sector, Aronoff gets input and insight from his travels. “When you travel you create a rich exchange of ideas that is incredibly fertilizing. You hear points of view you never came across with before,” he said about his expeditions around the world, which usually involve the ocean, his favorite place.
A man with a vision, Aronoff is happy with the road he has chosen and the causes he supports, which include autism research. “My wife and I had a couple of small babies when Quest Software went public in the late 90s. We went to the mall to celebrate. That was the first moment when I realized that all of the sudden I had enough wealth to buy anything my eyes could see. The whole mall.” said Aronoff. “At a moment like that you are faced with an incredible dilemma. Do you keep the life that brought you that far or are you going to start a new life? I chose to keep the life I had and I am happy I did. It´s better to be rich than to be rich and famous.”
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